Advertising strategies are changing, thanks to ads inundating everyday life to the point that ignoring them has become a necessary, automatic ritual. Enter anti-marketing, the meta of advertising: self aware, surprising, ironic. Anti-marketing is like a sarcastic family member who tells the truth by cracking shrewd jokes at everyone’s expense, including his own. You can’t really blame him – at least he’s honest and impartial – but sometimes you wonder what he’s ultimately getting at, if anything. You haven’t decided yet if he’s your favorite uncle or just a pain in the butt.
Take Clorox, for example. In an ad published online in May 2015, the first thing out of the actress’s mouth is, “Lots of marketing going on in this aisle: fancy labels, slick designs…this one’s got flowers on it. It’s pretty,” her voice dripping with skepticism, almost disdain. Should no one have noticed that she’s part of a Clorox ad condemning marketing? Maybe we should be more guarded against flowery labels.
Or more skeptical of ads warning against flowery labels. In the end, the commercial seems to hammer the point that consumers can trust a direct approach (delivered in Clorox’s roundabout way): “Bleach means clean,” and no amount of essentially oiled, ambrosial-scented froufrou imitation cleaner can compare. It’s as if Clorox wants to admit that their product smells like liquid insult – who likes the smell of bleach, after all – but at least consumers will get the results they’re seeking, if it’s to kill dysentery.
Can this type of advertising work? Traditional marketing is beginning to slump, since millennials and generations that follow are accustomed to clicking Skip Ad to get to their intended video or article without considering whatever it was that first five seconds was trying to tell them. They’ve been bombarded with ads since the beginning of their existence and have developed keen defenses to combat this constant beckoning to buy, buy, buy. Anti-marketing is a way to say, “Hey, don’t buy, we don’t care,” until it gets the consumers’ attention. Then it’s, “Oh, wait, yes – buy. But…you do you.”
Marketing minds are being faced with resistance, and are right to try different strategies. In literature, irony hits home. The comedy-tragedy dynamic has always been present, and has spoken to readers for millennia. Maybe consumers need a more nuanced approach, a comedic change that reflects themselves and their incredulous nature in a saturated market. As to whether it will work, that remains to be seen.
Renee Cole – Content Creator